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Environment centre opened

JOBURG'S City Parks has set up an education centre that will help schoolchildren learn more about their environment.

The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens Education and Research Centre, located in the gardens in Emmarentia, was launched by the member of the mayoral committee for environment, Matshidiso Mfikoe, on Friday, 21 May.

The event, attended by City Parks staff and learners from a number of primary schools, including Westbury, Emmarentia and Melville, coincided with celebrations to mark International Day of Biodiversity.

International Day of Biodiversity, a United Nations initiative, is celebrated worldwide each year on 22 May. It represents a milestone for preserving the diversity of life on Earth. The theme for this year is "Biodiversity and development".

The short launch ceremony was preceded by a performance by Joburg's emergency management services' theatre performers, who entertained and educated the learners about being safe and taking care of their environment.

To mark the opening, Mfikoe and some City Parks staff members planted a Henkel's yellowwood, a tall, straight-stemmed forest tree, reaching 20 to 30 metres in height.

"I am a firm believer that as local government practitioners we have been presented with a wonderful opportunity to build civic ownership by creating pockets of service excellence through greening," Mfikoe said.

She also commended learners and their teachers for continually participating in greening programmes hosted by City Parks at various environmental education centres.

"I urge you to act as spokespeople for the environment, encourage your friends to value our environment and to always remember the reality that billions of species have disappeared off the face of the Earth, and there is no telling when we could be the next species to be wiped off the planet, if we do not take care of our environment."

The centre is built on ecological principles that promote sustainable development. Energy in the building is conserved by the use of photovoltaic cells for lighting and solar powered geysers.

Water tanks placed around the building gather rainwater, which is then pumped into the eco-loo.

The facility offers environmental education programmes to enable learners to understand the world in which we live and the complexity and interconnectedness of environmental problems, such as poverty, wasteful consumption, environmental degradation, urban decay, population growth, gender inequality, health, conflict and the violation of human rights, that threaten our future.

"In promoting environmental education, grade-specific programmes are developed by consulting the national curriculum statements [NCS] for grades zero to 12," reads the event's press release. "The NCS indicates the learning outcomes and assessment standards for each grade. The programme themes are chosen as a result of consulting the NCS curriculum as well as the resources contained in each nature area."

The aims of the centre are:

To support, facilitate and strengthen schools in their efforts to improve environmental quality through environmental education;
To build capacity in communities by providing knowledge and skills to actively solve local environmental issues;
To support City Parks to make informed decisions and continually improve projects towards the goal of achieving its mission and objectives through conducting innovative company research, environmental research and biodiversity research; and
To offer advice on conservation, environmental management and sustainable use of biodiversity to improve environmental quality and knowledge based on environmental and biodiversity research findings.